the ugly mark

I’m 53 years old now…and I spent 6 and 1/2 years of my life getting a degree in art.

Or should I say “Art” with a capital “A”?

When I graduated from high school, I wanted to get on a framing crew and learn how to build houses.

I think I thought that if I really learned carpentry that building my house in the woods would come easier on down the line.

Of course, this plan was terrifying to my mother.  She had other ideas about what would be the good path for me to take.

So I went to school.

In retrospect, she was right.  It was a better choice to go to school.

I guess.

I guess it was a better choice. I may as well say that now. What’s my option?

When I was in ART SCHOOL, I had a teacher for a couple of my classes who I really enjoyed learning from.

He was pretty serious about it all. He was consumed.

He was a strong personality who demanded a lot from his students.

I remember this one Life Drawing class I took from him.

One day, he called me over to a fellow student’s easel.

This other student was a pretty nice girl who might have been a cheerleader or a homecoming queen in another life.  She was a decent artist…she knew how to draw.

She was a careful artist, though…she “drew what she knew”.

Anyway, Sam called me over to her easel and said, “I need you to make an ugly mark”.

I guess he understood that I was willing and able to run through the china shop in my muddy work boots.

He knew that I was willing to break.

No one had ever asked me to mess up someone else’s deal, though.

I stood at her easel with my chunk of graphite, and then I reached up and made the ugliest mark I could at the base of the face she’d been working on.

He said something to her about “willingness” and I went back to my own easel.

I was thinking about willingness and art and being a student this morning.

If I was teaching art, I’d consider the biggest pain in the rear, belligerent, defiant mule of a student my big success.

Now I guess that we do have to “go along to get along” sometimes…it’s important to get along with people.  That’s a life lesson that needs to be learned early on.

But in the Arts it seems like one of the most exciting things to find would be that one person who’s willing to say, “NO”.

I would appreciate the student who was strong enough to say, “I appreciate what you’re teaching me…but I think I’ll take it in another direction”.

There is nothing that is more boring than a competent student whose work is almost a carbon copy of his mentor’s work.

There’s nothing more boring to me in the visual arts than another.

Maybe that’s what I’m thinking about when I comment on “the big life” or “bliss” or “being genuine”.  Maybe I’m just thinking about being a “good animal”…about being true.

Being a true person.

Another element in the creation….like a cloud or a mountain or a river…not just an observer, not just someone who gets out of the car at all the scenic overlooks and then leaves it all behind until the next vista comes along.

Someone with his feet in the sand.

I know how to make an ugly mark.

That’s what I learned in Art School.


About Peter Rorvig

I'm a non-practicing artist, a mailman, a husband, a father...not listed in order of importance. I believe that things can always get better....and that things are usually better than we think.

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